Country life in Scotland under threat: EU official
BREXIT: Claim people ‘essentially being kept on the land’ by European subsidies
Rural life in Scotland faces devastation if farming subsidies in the UK are slashed after Brexit, an EU official has warned.
Smaller payments could see farmers stop food production and force them to abandon their land, according to the European Commission spokesman, raising fears of rural depopulation.
One MSP has warned reduced payments “spell disaster” for those living outside towns and cities.
The EU official said agriculture is “keeping people in the rural countryside” in Scotland and farmers are “essentially being kept on the land by those subsidies”.
“If those stop you have to ask yourself what is the incentive for people to stay on the land,” he told journalists in Brussels.
“What is the incentive for them to continue to sustainably manage the land?
“And if they don’t, what are the environmental consequences of what would seem on the face of it essentially to result in land abandonment.”
The official said this will accelerate rural depopulation and stop making those communities viable.
He added: “The reality is all of our territories are becoming increasingly urbanised. People are moving into towns and we need to sustain rural communities. I’m not saying farmers are the backbone of rural communities but a lot of rural communities revolve around small agri-food businesses.
“To keep people in the rural countryside you have to keep the services. So the school stays, the pharmacy stays, the local stays.”
The UK is to operate its own subsidy system from 2021 after leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which delivers £3 billion a year to domestic farmers.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said the new system will reward farmers who protect the environment.
Mike Rumbles, the North East MSP for the Lib Dems, said: “Brexit absolutely must not be allowed to take a scythe to our rural regions.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK Government has committed the same cash total for farm support in all parts of the UK until 2022.
“This provides more certainty than any other EU member state.”
“Agriculture is a devolved issue so it is rightly up to the Scottish Government to determine how its farmers will be supported, taking into account their own geographical and environmental circumstances.”
In six months the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and all sides seem to be involved in brinkmanship. Theresa May once again faces the possibility of resignations from her Cabinet as she tries to find a compromise in her position that will both please Brussels and survive a vote in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party continually churns out threats of action that would amount to bringing down the Prime Minister’s administration, perhaps proving Machiavelli was correct to say: “Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe.”
We reveal today that EU officials are warning of the threat to rural communities if funding currently administered by the bloc is not matched by the UK Government after next March. This is no doubt another move by some within the bloc to manoeuvre itself into a better negotiating position.
Real lives will feel the effect of political games, however. Our rural economy is vital not just for those farmers and their families who depend directly on it but for local high streets, shops and suppliers.
Negotiations are close to conclusion one way or another, then it will be over to elected politicians in London and Brussels. All must consider how their votes will impact on the people they are paid to serve, their constituents.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the Royal Highland Show. Mr Gove says farmers who protect the environment will be rewarded.